The most beautiful buildings in Vienna along the Ring Boulevard
Joggers, opera-goers, cyclists, businesspeople, politicians, tourists, Fiaker carriage drivers, sausage sellers and people out for a stroll – they all gather every day on the Vienna Ring Boulevard (Ringstrasse). Inaugurated in 1865 by its builder Emperor Franz Joseph, it is a picture book of historical architectural styles, and links Vienna’s most important cultural and political buildings like pearls on a necklace.
“It was wonderful to live in this city; it was easy to enjoy life in its buoyant and joyful air.” The writer Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) on his time in Vienna. The son of a textile manufacturing family, he grew up in a palais on Schottenring.
A defensive wall transforms into the pageantry
Emperor Franz Joseph was fed up with the fortress wall which separated the inner city from its suburbs. He wanted an elegant boulevard for his imperial capital, and so decided in 1857 to demolish the old city walls and to build the “Ring” in their place. Over a length of about five kilometres the empire’s financial and cultural wealth was put on display. There were the Neo-Renaissance K. & K. Hof-Operntheater (today the state opera house), the Parliament, reminiscent of ancient Greece, the Vienna City Hall Rathaus in the style of the Flemish Gothic, and the unfinished Kaiserforum (Hofburg – Heldenplatz – the Kunsthistorisches and Naturhistorisches Museums – MuseumsQuartier), to name just a few of the magnificent public buildings.
This was joined by the numerous palaces
They were joined by the numerous palaces, the so-called Ringstrassenpalais, built by nouveau riche bankers and industrialists. And thus the Ring Boulevard became a majestic boulevard for the emperor, a domicile for the upwardly-mobile bourgeoisie, and a fairground for all. Whoever went for a stroll on the Ring was part of high society – if only for a little while.
If you listen and look closely, the famous street still tells lots of stories today. Amid the hustle and bustle of Vienna you can still watch the (not always) magnificent history of Austria pass by, in the footsteps of the emperors, the artists, the scientists and the philosophers of the last two centuries…
Text: Agnes Hamberger, Fotos: Christine Wurnig